France mulling freeze on GM crops
AFP News, September 20 2007
France is reportedly planning a freeze on commercial genetically modified crops, which cover less than one percent of farmland in Europe's top agricultural producer.
According to Le Monde newspaper, the government is preparing to announce a halt to sales of GM seeds at a national conference on the environment taking place next month, involving farmers, business and advocacy groups.
Quoting Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo, Le Monde said the government wanted a freeze while working on a new law on GM crops, after ruling that it is impossible to stop the genes of GM crops spreading in the environment through pollination. Growing crops for research would be allowed to continue.
Borloo's office refused to confirm or deny the report, which was greeted as a victory by environmentalist groups including Greenpeace.
But Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier -- speaking at a congress of cereal farmers who largely support the use of GM crops -- said the question was "not settled."
Cereal farmers meanwhile accused the government of "caving in" to public opinion, which is extremely hostile to GM crops, an issue kept in the headlines by high-profile anti-GM activists such as the farmer Jose Bove.
The FNSEA farmers' union warned it could pull out of next month's environment conference if the report proves true.
As elsewhere in Europe, GM crops are tightly controlled in France: with the exception of crops planted for research purposes, the only authorised GM crop is a single type of maize, called MON 810 and manufactured by the US agrochemical giant Monsanto. Its licence expires this year.
Some 22,000 hectares of GM maize were planted in France in 2007 -- four times more than in 2006 -- representing 0.75 percent of land under cultivation.
Since 2004, about 10 GM strains have been cleared for the European Union market, mainly maize destined for human or animal consumption.